Why Do I Keep Getting Athlete’s Foot?

Why Do I Keep Getting Athlete’s Foot?

Despite its name, athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) can happen to anyone. And for some people, it’s a recurrent problem that seems to come back without explanation — or so it would seem. 

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that causes flaky skin (scaling) and painful cracking (fissures), especially between the toes. Without treatment, the area may become inflamed, leaving your skin red, itchy, moist, and prone to blistering. As the infection advances, it may spread to the soles of your feet or even your toenails

If you’re prone to getting athlete’s foot, board-certified podiatrist Dr. Francine Rhinehart can help. Read on to learn what causes this infection, why treatment is important, and which steps you should take to prevent its return.

Understanding what causes athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot can be caused by a variety of different fungi that thrive in warm, damp areas. Most people who develop the infection come in contact with the fungi — or another person’s infected skin scales — as they walk barefoot through a communal area like a public shower, locker room, sauna, or swimming pool deck. 

Athlete’s foot is very common: Up to 15% of people have this fungal infection at any given time, and about 70% of people can expect to develop it at least once in their lives. Although anyone can get athlete’s foot, your risk of contracting the infection increases if you have:

Most people who get athlete’s foot develop a so-called “toe web” infection that causes the skin between the fourth (ring) and fifth (pinkie) toes to change color, crack, peel, or flake. Athlete’s foot is referred to as a “moccasin-type” infection when it affects the bottoms, heels, and edges of your feet. 

Athlete’s foot can spread and worsen

Athlete’s foot doesn’t typically go away on its own, and it remains contagious to other people — and other areas on your own body — as long as it goes untreated. 

The infection may spread to your hands when you scratch your infected feet, or if you use the same towel to dry your feet and your hands. Careless towel use after bathing or swimming can also cause the infection to spread to your genitals, leading to a condition called “jock itch.”

To prevent the spread of infection and avoid the possibility of developing worsening athlete’s foot, the kind that features painful bumps, fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), or open sores (ulcers), proper treatment is important. 

Getting rid of your athlete’s foot infection 

Someone with a mild, first-time case of athlete’s foot may be able to resolve the problem fully with the consistent application of an over-the-counter antifungal cream, ointment, gel, spray, or powder. If you’ve had athlete’s foot before, however, Dr. Rhinehart may recommend taking a stronger treatment approach.

Why? Recurrent athlete’s foot can be more difficult to clear, meaning it’s often not as responsive to the treatment solutions that usually work so well in first-time cases. To address chronic athlete’s foot, Dr. Rhinehart may prescribe:

By following Dr. Rhinehart’s treatment plan and its specific instructions, your athlete’s foot should go away in 1-8 weeks. This means applying your prescription-strength topical medications as directed, taking the full course of your oral antifungal medication, and making recommended lifestyle changes to support faster clearing.

Remember: Even if the itchiness and irritation of athlete’s foot starts to fade and your skin looks like it’s healing, don’t stop taking your oral medicine or applying your topical treatment. Cutting your treatment time short increases the likelihood that your infection will survive — and come roaring back, more resistant than before, in no time flat. 

Here’s how to keep your feet fungus-free 

An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure, so with that in mind, here are some of the best ways to prevent (or at least minimize your risk of) athlete’s foot:

If you’re ready to banish athlete’s foot for good, Dr. Rhinehart can help. Call Francine Rhinehart, DPM, in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, today, or click online to schedule a visit any time.

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